LOCATION: SAN FERNANDO, CHILE
Tucked away in the foothills of the Andes Mountains in San Fernando, Chile is the coziest lodge. The instant you pull into the property you can feel your shoulders drop and you begin breathing a little deeper. Walking up to the lodge you’re greeted by two friendly Saint Bernards who then escort you to the door. You’re shown to one of four rooms to drop of your luggage before joining the others for a glass of wine by the fire.
As soon as we settled in I knew that we had haphazardly stumbled upon something special. To be honest, I didn’t really know what to expect when we booked our stay. We chose the lodge for its affordable rooms and its proximity to wineries and hiking trails. The experience we had was far beyond anything I imagined. Every single detail of your experience at Tumuñan Lodge has been carefully thought out by Will and Carolina, the couple who built and expertly run this little oasis.
During our stay, Will spent time talking to us about all the different wines in the region and his personal process in starting his own vineyard on the property. One day he organized a trip for us to explore the impressive museum in Santa Cruz, a delicious seafood lunch at Ristorante Vino Bello, and a tour of Neyen Vineyards where we learned more about the wine making process. Carolina prepared absolutely incredible food at every meal. I don’t know if I can truly pick a favorite because it was all so delicious, but the beef stew was particularly amazing (and I’m not usually that much of a beef fan). Because there are only four rooms in the lodge everything can be and is tailored to your needs and desires. The day that we went on a hike they packed a picnic lunch for us to enjoy while we were out and, we ended up rounding off the day with a wine tasting at the lodge.
What I really loved about Tumuñan Lodge was that you could make your stay whatever you wanted it to be - a relaxing getaway spent with wine and good books, a place to explore the bountiful nature in the valley, or a retreat after a day of visiting wineries in the area. I was so blown away by our experience at Tumuñan Lodge - the service and the attention to detail were top-notch. So if you’re looking to explore Chile’s wine regions or just looking for a quiet weekend getaway, you don’t want to miss out on this place. I’d go back in a heartbeat.
LOCATION: SAN FERNANDO, CHILE
It rained, no, it poured, all day for two days straight before we saw a gap in the forecast that might allow us to explore these mountains in our backyard. Although we were thoroughly enjoying the days spent drinking wine by the fire, we were staying right in the foothills of the Andes and were anxious to get out and see the outdoors. So as soon as we saw a rain-free day we planned to make the most of it and spend the day hiking.
With a very rough map in hand we started out packed with food, water, and extra layers. The first stop on our map was a waterfall hidden amongst a bamboo forest. We walked towards the crescendo of rushing water as we parted the sticks of bamboo moving steadily through the forest. Once we spent significant time admiring the unique beauty of the lagoon, we continued on our way passing through sections of thick forest to wide open spaces where the vastness of the mountains was undeniable. Almost every half hour one of us gawked at the incredible view before us.
A couple hours in we had (unbeknownst to us at the time) completed the leisurely part and had begun to feel the effects of the hike creeping up our legs. Our shoes were completely caked in mud to the point that I had to stop every 15 feet to scrap off the excess mud. We climbed higher and higher, up steeper and steeper inclines, taking slow, methodical steps in the deep mud. After a particularly grueling climb we were met with the most incredible view looking out at all the mountain peaks around and below us. Standing there in awe of the beauty we almost forgot about our aching legs. We were convinced that the hard part was behind us and the remainder of the hike would be a breeze, nothing more than a peaceful stroll through the trees. As you might have guessed, we were wildly mistaken.
We were told before departing that there would be a small river that we would cross on our way back and this would be a key landmark to let us know that we were on the right track. Well, as I mentioned before, the previous days had been full of non-stop showers. So instead of the one small river we were supposed to find, we found ourselves head-to-toe with quite a few “rivers”. We had been walking for a while now without any real indication that we were on the right path or how far away from home we were. Time after time we crossed over (or through) extra full rivers with sparse stepping stones, trying our hardest not to end up with soaking wet clothes. At one point, after crossing our fingers extra tight that we had passed all of the rivers, we came across yet another one that completely immobilized us. We stood there on one side of the rushing stream scanning for any possible rocks peaking out of water, but there were none. Not one. So we looked from side to side, trying to figure out another way to get to the other side. To the left the only possible way over was engulfed in thorny bushes on both sides of the stream. To the right were wild bushes, trees, and more thorns. There wasn’t a good option. But we had to get across, that was the only thing we were certain about. Scott went first, pushing his way through the bushes of thorns to the right. I followed, still unsure if this attempt would be successful. We made slow progress, trying not to get whacked in the face by branches and keeping an extra eye out for the swarms of thorns all around us. Finally, only slightly wet and with no major encounters with thorns, we successfully made it to the other side and continued on our way (passing more and more streams along the way).
It was almost 5:00, about an hour before sunset and still not exactly sure how much longer we had left, when I stopped dead in my tracks. A lone horse, with a deep chestnut coat, stood still just a few feet in front of us. We walked slowly towards him, careful not to make any quick movements, and as we did three other horses appeared from behind the trees. It felt as if we were walking into a dream. They seemed to come from no where and belong to no one. As we turned the corner to follow the trail, several unhappy dogs approached, breaking the spell of the majestic horses. They stayed on our heels as we tried to calm them and leave their territory. All of the sudden, seemingly out of nowhere, a man grumbled something, quieting the dogs. We turned to the left and there was a small man, dressed casually in sweatpants and a light coat, approaching from a small wooden cabin. Since the trail had been completely devoid of any other humans I was completely taken aback by seeing another person and especially in this kind of situation. Right after I turned to say hello, I noticed there was a herd of goats huddled together near a pen higher up the mountain. I asked if I could take a picture of his goats and as soon as I did he responded with “Tengo jovenes atrás” (I have babies back there). He didn’t ask me to, but I followed him back into the muddy pen to find twenty baby goats, some as young as a few days old, vying for attention. I wanted to stay longer, but the sun was setting fast and we still had a ways to go. The moment that magical scene was out of sight I was reliving it in my mind, like it was all a wonderful, enchanting dream.
This story could go one forever with me recounting every small little moment that seemed so monumental at the time, but I’ll wrap it up. We walked until we hit a dead end and were pretty sure we had taken a wrong turn somewhere. It was sunset and I was panicking. There was no one to ask, no where else to go, so we turned and retraced our steps until we once again heard the sound of rushing water. We followed the sound to the top of a waterfall, the same one that we had visited at the beginning of our trek in the morning. This was not where we were supposed to be, but at least it was something familiar. The only thing we felt sure about in the moment was that we needed to be on the other side of the waterfall and then we could find our way home. Our shoes were muddy, slippery and the rocks were covered in water, but we took a deep breath, stretched our legs out as far as they could reach and lunged from rock to rock until we finally landed on the other side. The relief that I felt was so immense that it was as if we had just been through a life or death situation through the depths of highly dangerous white water rapids. It was exaggerated for sure, but dang it felt good. And so did that warm shower and glass of wine waiting for us when we made it back home.
LOCATION: VAlPARAISO, CHILE
About two weeks ago we took a week-long winter vacation and traveled in the central region of Chile. One of our stops along the way was Valparaíso, a coastal town not too far from Santiago. When you arrive in Valparaíso it is as if you have traveled to another country entirely. It's unlike anywhere else I have been in Chile, or anywhere else in the world for that matter. The town is filled with quirkiness and is most known for it's abundance of street art that covers almost every building. It's sensory overload, in the best way. We spent our short time there just wandering around, up and down all the hills, taking it all in (that and eating a lot).
The port of Valparaíso, although less talked about, is an important part of the city's history. In the early 1800's the city's harbour opened the possibility for international trade and was a major stopping point for ships making their way around South America. Although the impact of the harbour has decreased over the years, you can still feel the sense of life it brings to the city from its shores. We got up early one morning to watch the boats coming and going and got to be a part of the awakening of the city.
LOCATION: PUCÓN, CHILE
It’s hard to think of a day that sounds more relaxing than soaking in a natural hot springs surrounded by autumn-colored trees and a cool breeze. There are endless ways to expend your energy amongst the lakes and mountains in this region, so it only seems fitting that nature gives us a way to relax and unwind as well. Last weekend we traded in our hiking gear for swimsuits and headed out to spend the afternoon at one of the many hot springs just outside of Pucón.
Villarrica is a great base to take advantage of pretty much everything you could want to do around here. It’s just a short bus trip from Pucón, where you can catch buses that take you to the national parks, the volcano, and the hot springs. We decided to go to Los Pozones hot springs after it was recommended to us by several people for the peaceful atmosphere it offered, tucked in a beautiful forest amongst the streams and tall trees.
Some of the hot springs offer food and drinks in addition to other amenities, but this spot is kept wonderfully natural with only the springs and a changing room. We took a short break to eat the simple lunch we packed, but other than that we spent the entire time just soaking in the crystal clear water.
The occasional cool breeze provided a welcomed balance to the steamy water throughout the day. Although I felt like I could spend an eternity there, my body knew it needed a break after a few hours. We reluctantly left the tranquility of the water, put our coats back on and headed back up the hill to catch the bus back to Pucón. I felt like I was in a dream as we walked up the steep incline to find the mountain tops completely engulfed in wispy clouds. With its close proximately to Villarrica, we will surely be back soon to experience another afternoon as relaxing as that one.
Los Pozones hot springs: Hours 11 - 18 (8,000 pesos), 18:30 - 0:00 (10,000 pesos)
Getting there: Buses depart from Pucón M-Sat. at 7, 10:30, 13:30, 15:40, 17:30 // Sun. at 10:30, 13:30, 15:40, 17:30 (1,500 pesos)
Tips: Bring your own food, drinks, and towels
I’ve been going about daily life here in Chile, posting every so often over here without giving you a proper introduction to our new town and life. So let me back up a bit.
We arrived in Chile a little over a month ago and have been settled into our new town of Villarrica for about four weeks. Villarrica is a mid-sized town in the center of southern Chile. As I mentioned in my last post, Villarrica sits on a beautiful lake flanked by mountains and volcanos. On the other side of the lake is Pucón, Villarrica’s more tourist-friendly neighbor. The area is known for its access to nature and outdoor adventures (hiking, canoeing, hot springs, rafting, skiing, and so much more), which we are steadily working on checking off our list.
We have made our home in Villarrica in a quaint wooden cabin, just two blocks from the lake (and less than two blocks from my school). We are learning so many new things through our adventures in cabin life, like how to keep a fire going all day (and all night), and what to do when you run out of propane in the middle of cooking dinner on your gas stove. Reminds me of some of the fond memories we have figuring out life in Finland. One of the best things about our cabin is that we have a view of the Villarrica Volcano from our porch. Every day on my way to work I get to glance over at the ever-changing peak - sometimes clear and calm, while at other times surrounded by smoke or looming clouds. That incredible sight never gets old. Another thing that I love about where we are living is that we walk to everything - the supermarket, the laundry, our favorite pizza place, the lake, and my school. It’s just one of those small joys that makes the everyday a little bit more pleasantly simple.
On top of this just being a wonderful little town, everyone has also been so welcoming and kind to us. People seem to go out of their way to help the gringos figure out how to do things around here. Especially our adoptive Chilean padres who make sure that we get our filling of asado every weekend and keep us stocked up on fire wood so we don’t freeze our buns off. They've made sure that we know what a real pisco sour tastes like and how to make the simply delicious staple, Chilean salad. They even threw Scott a birthday party complete with fresh ceviche and Chilean wine just a few days after we arrived! They've played a huge role in the amazing experience we’ve had so far.
It’s hard to believe that we’re already a month into this because in a lot of ways I feel like we're just getting started. There's so much to do, so much to see and time seems to be racing past us - I wish I could hit the slowmo button and stretch out the time we have left, just a little bit.
In the south of Chile, in between two charming town, sits a lake with jaw-dropping views from every angle. Jagged mountains serve as the primary backdrop to the typically glass-like water. Though the towering volcano with smoke looming around its peak can easily steal the show with the overwhelming sense of awe it provokes. This lake just so happens to be located two blocks from the cabin we’re currently calling home.
Though the lake remains fairly quiet during the colder months, the presently deserted kiosks, the empty black sand beach, and the single brave kayaker give us glimpses of the lively scenes that flood its shores in the summer. While we dream of those warmer days when we can dip our feet into the pristine water, we will not let the chilly air keep us from enjoying walks along the shore, reveling in its staggering beauty.
There is something incredibly calming about the sight of water that seems to put everything into perspective and quiets the day-to-day anxieties that we all experience. The massive mountains seem to tell us that our worries are not nearly as big as they feel, and encourage moments of reflection which help us re-evaluate our priorities. Though the busyness of our lives can often times discourage us from taking the time to partake in simple things that don’t produce a tangible product, such as taking a walk, I always feel more grounded after I have allowed myself to do those things.
As I write this and once again realize how fortunate we are to live so close to this little oasis in southern Chile, I hope to take advantage of all that this lake offers as much as possible during our time here.